The foot tripod concept is a useful way of thinking about how to evenly distribute weight on the foot. The tripod refers to three points of contact that the bottom of the foot makes with the ground.
Points of the Foot Tripod
The three “legs” of the tripod are the:
- Center of the calcaneus (heel)
- Head of the 5th metatarsal
- Head of the 1st metatarsal
A balance between these points gives the foot stability. It’s also thought that the arches of the foot function optimally when the tripod position is maintained.
Loss of the Tripod Position
What’s often seen in a person with flat feet is that one leg of the tripod–the 1st metatarsal head at the base of the big toe–is not very stable. The result of this is that pressure shifts to the inside edge of the foot, with more weight placed on both the side of the big toe and the inside of the heel.
There are many possible reasons for why the foot takes on a non-optimal position and often multiple issues need to be addressed to restore a strong foot tripod. These might include foot and calf muscles weakness or a varus alignment of the forefoot.
Optimal Foot Contact
Standing with a strong foot tripod position can be tricky for someone just starting out with building arch strength. For someone with flat feet, it’s often difficult to feel exactly where the points should be.
One way to go about finding the foot tripod is by first getting into a neutral heel position. Doing this is often enough to “set” the first and second legs of the tripod.
The next step is to lift all the toes up while keeping the ball of the foot on the floor. This allows for a better sense of how much pressure is under the 1st metatarsal head (underside of the big toe joint).
When I was working on this, I found that pressing down into the floor with the base of my big toe while maintaining the neutral heel position was helpful to stabilize that “leg” of the tripod.